Boating On The Great Barrier Reef


The Great Barrier Reef is one of the most stunning locations you can travel to by boat. It’s one of the seven natural wonders of the world, after all. If you’re lucky enough to visit the Great Barrier Reef, it’s imperative that you follow responsible reef practices to protect this nautical paradise. Here are five important rules for boating in the Great Barrier Reef that my family and I follow when out on the water. I hope you will follow them too.


Make sure your boat is in good condition before heading to the Great Barrier Reef. Check for engine leaks, cracks on fuel lines and loose connections. Don’t engage in any maintenance if you’re already out on the water. Likewise, don’t clean your boat if you’re near the reefs.

As a general rule, your paint, lubricants and fuel must never contaminate the water. Use non-toxic cleaning products. Stay away from harsh chemicals such as bleach, ammonia, lye and petroleum. Avoid refuelling out on the water. In case of spills, use an absorbent cloth and dispose of it in a hazardous waste bin.


The Great Barrier Reef is home to a vast number of plants, animals and organisms. From sponges, sea cucumbers, starfish and molluscs to fish, turtles, seabirds, dugongs, dolphins and humpback whales. You must always be on the lookout when boating in the Great Barrier Reef. Your boat should not collide with any plant, animal or habitat. If you see animals in the water, immediately slow down your boat’s speed.

When pulling your boat onto the beach, watch out for nesting seabirds and turtles, and don’t crash into the vegetation. Also, make sure that there’s at least a 30cm clearance between your propeller and the seabed. As a precaution, you might want to add a propeller cowl to lessen the risk of injuring marine animals. If you see injured or stranded animals, report to the authorities immediately. Boating in the Great Barrier Reef requires responsibility and accountability.


Your boat’s anchor and chains can cause significant damage to coral reefs. Make sure that they’re not dropped and dragged onto the corals as well as wrap around them and break small bits off. Vessel groundings also cause damage to coral reefs. Even slight damage to the corals will take years to recover. And even then, they’ll never return to their original condition.

With that said, avoid anchoring in coral bottoms. Always be on the lookout for reef markers. It’s much better to do it in sandy or muddy bottoms. However, as much as possible use public moorings.


To protect the Great Barrier Reef, authorities have put in place a number of rules. As a boater, it’s your responsibility to be aware of all these regulations. All the information you need is readily available. Ignorance isn’t a valid excuse, and you’ll receive a heavy penalty for violating the rules. For example, there are certain limits to vessel length and group size.

When it comes to boating in specific areas, you must be aware of the different zones and what activities are allowed in each of them. Some zones don’t allow fishing, while others require permits before you can engage in water-themed activities. You should have GPS on your boat to know what zone you’re boating in.


It’s normal to want souvenirs to remember your amazing boating experience in the Great Barrier Reef. However, don’t take shells, corals or anything else from the reef. Instead, head to shops to obtain souvenirs that are legally and properly collected. You can also remember your boating trip in many other ways, such as taking photos or taking videos.

The Great Barrier Reef sees millions of visitors each year. Getting to witness this natural wonder with your own eyes is definitely a privilege. As such, we must do everything we can to protect it. It’s important to abide by these five important rules when boating in the Great Barrier Reef. This is so that future generations will still be able to enjoy the Great Barrier Reef in the same way we currently do.



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John Steele

John loves cooking at home and outdoors, travelling, fishing and discovering a new life. He's got loads of experience he wants to share while he adventures through retirement.